To Russia with love


Despite the potential danger and high costs, all four major broadcast networks are lining up to get Survivor producer Mark Burnett's next big reality series, Destination Mir.

Burnett, the producer of CBS' most successful summer series and USA Network's Eco-Challenge, is talking to NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX about a reality program that will send one contestant to the Russian space station Mir.

Planned for next fall, Destination Mir will follow up to 15 contestants vying for a 10-day trip with two Russian cosmonauts to the aging Mir space station. The weekly series will chronicle the contestants vying for the opportunity at a Russian space training camp, where they will be put through rigorous training and psychological exams. Each week, Russian space officials will eliminate a contestant until there is only one person standing-the lucky winner of a flight on a Russian-made Soyuz rocket into outer space.

"I hope they don't kill anybody," said one top Hollywood reality producer. "I guess this is the natural progression of the whole reality craze, but it may be a deadly one. It's not a deserted island or a house anymore."

Some network executives say the series could cost upwards of $30 million to acquire from Burnett, who is fronting the $20 million cost for the use of the Russian facilities, including the trip to Mir.

Executives at CBS, where Survivor's second incarnation-set in the Australian outback-is due to debut this winter, say they are interested in Destination Mir.

"Mark Burnett is a visionary and a good friend to many of us at CBS. We are always interested in what he has to say." A spokeswoman at NBC confirmed the network's interest and said executives there met with Burnett earlier this month to discuss the project. FOX and ABC executives also talked.

"I think it's a great idea," said one network executive. "If done right, can you imagine the ratings?"